Thursday, November 27, 2008

Normally I Wouldn't

Since this is a gaming blog, I normally don't talk much about anything but gaming-related things (or non-gaming things that affect my gaming or blogging). Coupled with the fact that my last post wasn't gaming-related, that's two reasons why I normally wouldn't do what I'm about to do.

But sometimes you just have to do things you normally wouldn't, right?


To my fellow Americans: Happy Thanksgiving. I know there's a lot of commercialization around this day, and maybe even a little controversy surrounding its origins, but never mind all those things: the basic idea behind the holiday is a good one -- take a moment to look around at all you have, what your friends, family and indeed your whole nation...and be grateful. In other words...give thanks.

To my fellow citizens of Planet Earth that don't happen to be Americans: I know this sounds trite, perhaps, but take a moment today to reflect on how lucky we are to be living in this time, right here, right now. No, our world if far, far from perfect...but I think it is still probably the best time there has ever been to be alive.

To everyone: As we take a moment today to be grateful for what we have, also consider the things that could be better...note the things that need to be changed. I encourage you to do one thing tomorrow that helps bring forth even one tiny little change that would help make this a better place.

Imagine what would happen if every single one of us did one thing to help make our world and our lives better? Imagine how much more we would have to be grateful for this time next year...'s just a thought.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I got sent to Pennsylvania this week for work, and the hotel they have me in has had some major Internet problems. The good news is I've gotten the work that I was sent here to do pretty much done (one more night of work left) and then I drive to Philly tomorrow and fly home. It was snowing here earlier but seems to have stopped now. What I've seen of PA is very nice -- what I've seen of it, which isn't much at all, really -- but honestly, I'm ready to go home. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vanguard Vets (re-)Visited

I have a confession to make. There's a little power-gamer lurking in me that wants to find something broken and crush my opponents with it in a relentless onslaught. I'm not proud of this, mind you, and in fact I'm not terribly happy making this confession, but there it is.

Part of me thinks that maybe it comes from living in Austin. You see, I've heard from several sources that Austin has a very -- how shall I put this? -- competitive gaming community. I believe it. There are some very, very good players here, and you either learn to play, and play well, or you learn to lose. A lot. I still lose a lot. :) But that's OK, because I feel lucky to live in a city with such a vibrant, active gaming community. I feel like I'm becoming a better player in the long run because of it. I don't mind losing, because I feel like every time I lose, I come away with more knowledge of how this game is played, what my army can do, and how I can become a better player.

What does that have to do with Vanguard Veterans? Well, it started a couple of nights ago. I was playing my CSM army and unloaded a unit of 10 Khorne Berzerkers out of a Land Raider and charged with them. They did what they do best -- they wiped out the squad they assaulted and that was that. I made the comment, "Oh yeah, Khorne Berzerkers, they're the reason I wanted to play Chaos in the first place. I think -- point for point -- that they're the best CC specialists in the game." Abe, one of BFG's employees piped up with, "One of the best. But point for point, I think the best CC specialists are Vanguard."

Hmm. This got me to thinking, "Vanguard Vets? You mean those over-costed, super-expensive models in the new marine codex? Bah. Marines don't get effective CC specialists, never have, never will." Since I try to never make decisions based on opinions when there's some facts to be had, I thought I'd run some numbers and consider some options.

First off, I'm still of the opinion that Vanguard with Jump Packs are simply too darned expensive.

But you don't have to give them jump packs.

In fact, where Vanguard really shine is in the other options you can give them.

Let's take your bog-standard unit of 10 Vanguard Vets, no upgrades: 225 points. For those 225 points you get 30 attacks -- 40 on the charge -- of which 3 (4 on the charge) are power weapon attacks. That's not too shabby. For comparison, let's consider 9 Khorne Berzerkers and a Skull Champion with a power weapon: 240 Points. Granted, for 15 points more you're getting WS5 and Furious Charge -- and that means that on the charge, the Berzerkers are definitely going to be the better unit. However, without the charge, they're nearly even, and 15 points cheaper.

Now let's make things really interesting.

What makes the Vanguard special is the options you can give them. Consider that you can give every model in a Vanguard unit a power weapon. For 10 Vanguard with a power weapon, you're going to shell out 360 points -- certainly not cheap, but for that extra 135 points, you're getting 30 power weapon attacks (40 on the charge), and this is something that Khorne Berzerkers don't even have the option to do. Run Pedro Cantor with these guys and you've going to get 50 power weapon attacks on the charge. That's officially a wandering band of close combat rape.

Want to make the ultimate band of roving CC slaughter? For a cool 1065 points you can field 10 Vanguard Vets, all with a pair of lightning claws, Pedro Cantor, and a chaplain with Crozius and Power Fist riding to the slaughter in a Land Raider Crusader with EA. That will net you 59 power weapon attacks on the charge that re-roll to-hits, with 50 that re-roll to-wound (with a paltry 47 attacks without the charge, 40 of which re-roll to-wound). Crazy? Yes. Expensive? Oh my yes. Worth it? Probably not. But the fact remains that you can do it.

The only problem I can see with the 10 model unit all armed with power weapons is they'd probably be a little too good at what they do: charge, kill everything in sight, and then be sitting there, power-armored buttcheeks flapping in the breeze, ready to take a turn of fire from probably every available unit your opponent has. This will result in a large pile of very dead -- and very expensive, points-wise -- Vanguard. They do, after all, die like normal marines.

I'm thinking a much more reasonable configuration would be to give half of them power weapons. The sergeant comes with one, so upgrade 4 of them with power weapons and you're looking at a more-than-reasonable 285 points. That nets you 15 power weapon attacks (20 on the charge) and you're only coughing up 45 more points than you would for 9 Berzerkers and a Skull Champ. Toss in a LRC with EA and your total comes up to 550 points -- again, reasonable, for what you're getting. Consider that I used to field a command squad that cost way more than 285 points and got less attacks and less power weapons, I'd say this isn't a bad deal.

I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions on Vanguard -- or any other close combat specialists you'd like to compare and contrast them with. I'm interested in how they compare with, say, Harlequins...

The Army of The Crowing

What you see here is the color scheme for my CSM army, what I have named "The Army of The Crowing". If your curious, the name comes from the music of Coheed & Cambria, my all-time favorite band (all of their albums are concept albums, each one a "chapter" in a story, a very interesting sci-fi story in fact).

I had a conversation with a fellow Austin gamer, Robert, who was also my Week 5 Macharian Crusade opponent (if you want to see his Mordian Iron Guard, you can look no further than BoLS "Armies We Like" section, and let me tell you, his army looks amazing -- as good as those pictures are, it looks even better in person). Robert is a long-time Chaos player and he's (obviously) a good painter. He and I agreed that the "Black Legion" was over-represented here and that something new would be a good idea. After the Macharian Crusade ends, I'm planning on dunking my existing CSMs into the Simple Green and starting over -- and when I do, this is the color scheme I'm planning on going with.

I know it's a pretty simple scheme, but that's part of the reason I like it. The idea is to use a gloss finish on the (Merchite) red trim to give it a little metallic sheen, which I think will give it a little oomph. What do you guys think?

P.S.: In case some of you are thinking, "God-Emperor dang it, Joe, the name of this blog is Ultramarine Blues, not Chaos Marine Blues. When are you going to talk about your Ultras again?" the answer to that question is: next post! A conversation with Abe at BFG got me to thinking and re-thinking a unit in the new marine codex that I had pretty much written off: Vanguard Vets...and my next post is going to be about them! Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Workspace

Now that the move into the new place is more-or-less complete, I've gotten my new desk set up, and that means my new workspace is finally fully functional.

After a quick trip to my FLGS yesterday afternoon to pick up supplies, I got my hobby area set up and ready to go. I'm not busily working on the balrog/daemon prince conversion, thanks to a bit (look in the bottom right of the frame, it's the long pointy bit) given to me by a friend.

But first...I'm going to the Texas RenFaire with some friends today. So, no modeling today. Modeling tomorrow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How-To: Play to a Draw vs. Armored Company

Got to play my Week 4 Macharian Crusade game tonight. My opponent was Bushido Red Panda, and he brought his Armored Company.

This being my second outing against an Armored Company, I thought I'd briefly share my experiences.

I'll give the ending away: the game ended in a draw.

"How does one play to a draw against Armored Company, Joe?" you may find yourself asking.

Great question, thank you for asking.

Here's how you do it:

1. Play spearhead deployment with capture & control mission. That's right, two objectives and table quarters. Guess where your objective goes? If you answered anything other than, "In your own back corner," you've answered incorrectly and must turn in all your models, rulebooks, codex(es), dice, etc. What this means in game terms is the objective you must take (and your opponent must take, too) are the maximum distance away from each other they can possibly be!
2. Park a Land Raider on your objective, and have your opponent literally line the two back table edges with tanks.
3. Lose the "seize the initiative" roll. This will let the Armored Company player go first. This means you don't get to pop smoke on your Rhinos, and that makes them basically sitting ducks for, oh, far too many battle cannons and -- if you're especially lucky -- a Tank Hunter Destroyer. Did I mention 2 Basilisks? No? Well, you can't lose your army to template-y death unless your opponent gives you what I'm going to term, "The Armored Company Full Monty," without 2 Basilisks. I'm happy to say I got "The Armored Company Full Monty" tonight!
4. Lose 2 of your 3 Rhinos by the end of the top of turn 2. Also, lose one of your Havok squads, and have your Land Raider immobilized. Also, your now-footsloggin' Chaos Lord and attached Chosen squad and one of your formerly-Rhino-mounted CSM units should go ahead and suck a big, fat helping of template death, even after "Going to Ground". Good times!
5. When your outflanking Chosen actually arrive on the "correct" side of the board -- you know, the one with all the tanks on it, go ahead and melta that Leman Russ, because you know next turn, they're going to eat a template. Or four.
6. Greater daemons are tough. They are not so tough that they can survive an alpha strike from an Exterminator and a couple of templates. No, that 4+ invulnerable save only goes so far!
7. Deep-striking terminators that actually "hit" their deep-strike target, only to miss with the one combi-melta they have really, really suck. Also, when every gun in an Armored Company dedicates itself to killing said terminators, they will usually succeed -- even if it takes 3 or 4 tries to get it right.
8. One lonely surviving las cannon-armed Havok can actually manage to blow up one tank then destroy the auto-cannons on an Exterminator the next turn if he's left to his own devices.
9. However, to really pull out the draw in style, you have to have a Land Raider with a unit of CSMs inside parked on your objective. The game must run the full 7 turns. Turns 5, 6 and 7 the Land Raider must take the full firepower of the 7 remaining tanks in the Armored Company -- including the Tank Hunter Destroyer with its S10 AP2 Laser Destroyer Cannon and a menagerie of Battle and Earthshaker cannons -- and live, with not one penetrating hit during those 3 full turns of raining template death.

All in all, it was a fun -- if sometimes frustrating -- game. Jay (Bushido) is a great player and I knew it was going to be a good game. I also knew from deployment to game end that unless something really odd happened, it was going to be a draw. There was no way I was going to destroy that "V" of tanks on his back table edges, and he couldn't get close enough with his tanks to take mine.

Next up, for Week 5, I'm facing "Mordian Iron Guard", which I'm not familiar with at all. One thing about the Macharian Crusade, I'm learning a lot about Imperial Guard. These Mordians seem to be a more-or-less "standard" Guard army, so it looks like it's time to break the Khorne Berzerkers back out!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

vs. Armored Company Update

Mike and I got to play our Macharian Crusade game, and I thought I'd follow up with the results.

I decided to take a modified version of the list I originally posted, dropping the raptors, vindicator and daemon prince to allow me to add another unit of Chosen, a Chaos Lord and greater daemon plus giving all the terminators chain fists and Icon of Khorne. I also split up the Havoks into 2 units of 5, each with two las cannons. A few other twiddles and I wound up with two mounted CSM squads, two Chosen squads (one mounted, the other infiltrating/outflanking), one footslogging CSM squad, the terminators and Land Raider. Every squad was packing melta guns and power fists. I felt ready to rumble!

Basically, it went like this:

Mission and deployment: capture & control, pitched battle.

Mike won the roll, and elected for me to set up first.

We both placed our home objectives in the middle of the board, against the back edge.

I parked the Land Raider on top of my objective, and put the footsloggers right next to it (to embark into it during first turn movement), put the the Havoks in hard cover to the left and right of the LR (the best place I could find for them) and put the Rhinos on my left flank. The Chaos Lord joined the mounted Chosen unit in their Rhino. In reserve I kept the terminators (to deep strike) and one unit of Chosen (to outflank), while the greater daemon lurked in the warp, awaiting the summoning that would bring him forth to wreak destruction and death.

Mike deployed a wall of tanks on his board edge. His list was changed, too: he fielded one Exterminator, two Demolishers, and way too many Leman Russes. Three of them (or was it four?) were command tanks, and also had BS4.

Mike tried to seize the initiative, failed, and we began.

Turn one: Rhinos moved forward 12", the CSMs embarked into the LR, and the Havoks and LR fire las cannons. I have a love/hate relationship with my las cannons, be they loyalist or traitor: I love them, they hate me. I swear, I usually hit about every other roll with them, sometimes worse. And then when it comes for the all-important penetration roll, that single pip shows up for often than the five or six. It's my own little dice curse. This game it was no different -- the two Havok units might as well have been two units firing a twin-linked las cannon each. Out of the six (two of them twin-linked), I managed to pop one -- count them, one tank. Yay, go me.

Before I go any further, I'd like to confess that during deployment or turn one I usually say, "I like to make at least one huge tactical mistake early and go ahead and get that out of the way." It's meant to be funny, but more often than I'd like to admit, it's true.

So I'll man up and admit my huge, glaring tactical blunder that probably influenced the game's outcome. Ready for this? I forgot my Rhinos have smoke launchers. To be fair, I've been playing 4E loyalist marines exclusively for a year, and those Rhinos didn't come stock with smoke launchers. Plus, this army is the "acquired" one, the one I didn't model, and the Rhinos don't have smoke launchers on them. (Which is something else I'd like to comment on: they say WYSIWYG is for your opponent. I say it's mainly for me -- I prefer looking at my models and knowing what weapons/wargear they have without having to refer back to my army list.)

Mike moved his Demolishers up, repositioned a tank or two and then got crankin' with the battle cannons. My poor, not-protected-by-a-smoke-screen-like-they-should-have-been Rhinos. One of CSM carrying Rhinos got destroyed and suddenly the spiky boys were standing in the smoking hole where a transport used to be. They got to look around for a few seconds before more templates dropped and when the smoke cleared, the aspiring champ was the only survivor. The other CSM Rhino took it on the chin and was shaken, and the CL/Chosen Rhino lost its bolter. OK, it could have been a lot worse.

Turn two, termies and greater daemon decide now would be a good time to show up, but the Chosen couldn't break away from the Slaaneshi peep show (or whatever it was that was keeping them entertained) declined to enter the battle. This was exactly the opposite of what I preferred, but that's how it goes. I put the termies next to some hard cover and brought the GD in next to the CL/Chosen Rhino, thinking he'd need some cover to survive Mike's turn. My crack las cannon marksmen managed to shake a demolisher and the termies ran into cover.

Mike shuffled more tanks around and then started his template two-step. Casualties: the now-footsloggin' AC, a couple of Havok ablative wounds, the CL/Chosen Rhino (nuts!) and a couple of Chosen. Double nuts.

Turn three: The Chaos Lord, finding himself footsloggin' it with the boys decided that simply wouldn't do for a man of his stature and he ordered the CSMs in the remaining Rhino out so he and his attached Chosen could get in. The termies hiked through the covering terrain and fired their one combi-melta, hit, and rolled a smokin' three for penetration. Awesome! The las cannon specialists mid-field fired (I think) and maybe blew up a tank. Man, those guys just couldn't get their act together! They should be popping at least two tanks a turn! (ok, I know they shouldn't, but in my mind they should!).

Oh, almost forgot the outflanking Chosen. Whatever movie they were watching must have ended and they decided to show up. You know how cool outflanking is? Showing up on the short board edge and all? It's awe-some, right?


Well, when you get to show up on the short board edge you want, anyway. I guess someone back at spiky-boy barracks decided to prank it up and replaced the Chosen AC's battlefield map with a copy of Tentacle Weekly or something, and these clowns show up on the right side of the board. Did I mention that I really, really needed them on the left? No? Well guess what, I really needed them on the left side of the board -- you know, the side with all the tanks on it. Anyway, they lolligag onto the right side of the board, a good 16" or so from a target. Oh well, at least there was some decent cover between them on closest tanks, and they had to run to get into it.

I'll summarize the remainder of the game:

The GD lumbered forward, and had to pass through some difficult terrain on the charge. Monstrous creatures never have problems with that, do they? Mine did. Rolled a good two inches short. When he got there next turn, though, he committed a very unholy act on that tank.

When the termies finally got out of cover and into charge range, there were only three of them left. However, I split the assault against two tanks, two on a Leman Russ and one on the Exterminator -- neither of which had moved. I'll put it this way: Bigred was right. Khornate chain fist wavin' terminators are Leman Russ can-openers. Three termies, two tanks, one round. Result: two dead tanks. Chaos Lord and Chosen hosed another tank with melta and then got vapped by heavy bolter fire.

Demolisher fire exploded the Land Raider, but the CSMs survived. The outflanking Chosen finally made it through cover and popped a Demolisher. Mike had moved his lone remaining scoring command tank and parked it on his objective. At the bottom of turn five, we each held our home objectives, and my GD, terminators and outflanking Chosen had closed the distance to be in assault range on turn six.

I rolled the die for turn six.

I rolled a one.

Final result: tie.

Epilogue: My opponent for Week 4 is Jay, a.k.a. Bushido Red Panda, and guess what army he's playing in the Macharian Crusade?

Yep, you guessed it. Armored Company.

...and while I haven't seen his army, I've seen a picture or two. Unless I'm totally mistaken, he has a Destroyer Tank Hunter -- armed with a Laser Destroyer (72" range, S10 AP2, Heavy 1 Blast that does not scatter) -- in his list.

Good times! *facepalms*